With a great deal of anticipation building in the crowd, Pierce Manufacturing unveiled its latest product, the "Dash-CF," to the public on March 24 at the FDIC in Indianapolis. Fire service journalists were invited to a "sneak peek" at Pierce Manufacturing's parent company, Oshkosh Trucks, two weeks before the unveiling. We were given an outstanding briefing of the new product and allowed to ride in and drive it.
Originally developed as the "Situation Ready Truck" (SRT), Pierce renamed it the "Dash-CF" to more realistically represent the product. The name draws on two well-respected product names: the Pierce Dash, which was the highly reliable "workhorse" of the product line; and the Mack CF600 of the 1970s and 1980s.
The people in the product development department at Pierce are always thinking of ways to provide the fire service with safer and more efficient apparatus. They listen to customer suggestions and put them to work. To that end, Pierce developed the Dash-CF to respond to customer feedback that the driver and officer positions in the cab were too cramped.
Since the advent of the tilt cab, apparatus manufacturers have moved the engine forward between the driver and officer, placing the radiator behind a grille at the front of the apparatus. Initially this was bearable but, with the 2007 EPA emissions changes, manufacturers needed more space around the engine, resulting in a larger "doghouse" between the driver and the officer and less occupant space.
Pierce's first offerings to deal with this situation were the Velocity and Impel chassis that provided the fire service's first 100-inch-wide cabs, up from 96 inches. Although this was a vast improvement, some departments experienced difficulty with the wider cab, especially in urban areas with narrow streets and narrow fire station bay doors.
The people at Pierce went to work on the problem and organized a focus group consisting of members from several fire departments located in the four corners of the United States. They concentrated on a way to free up the space inside the cab for the driver and officer.
As they say, "what goes around comes around." Pierce took an old idea, putting the engine behind the driver and officer, vastly improved on it, and developed a 96-inch-wide cab that is spacious in both the front and rear.
A prototype of the new cab was produced, and each member department of the focus group was called in individually to express opinions and ideas. As the chassis was developed, Pierce kept focus group members informed, which helped them contribute to the finished product.
What Is a Dash-CF?
The Dash-CF started out with the Pierce PUC (Pierce Ultimate Configuration) chassis that uses a single-stage 1,500-gpm Pierce/Darley pump mounted under the cab, which is driven by a transmission power take-off (PTO). The pump, drive, and plumbing are all readily accessible with the cab tilted. This is where the story changes.
Forward of the front axle, the 13-inch frame rails drop approximately 10 inches, which lowers the front of the cab. The engine is mounted low between the frame rails to the rear, resulting in the front of the cab being clear, spacious, and without the obstruction of the engine "doghouse" between the driver and officer.
To reduce heat and noise and increase space, the truck's radiator and charged air cooler were relocated to the top of the body. A hydraulically driven, thermostatically controlled fan provides down-draft cooling of the radiator as necessary. This design has the added benefit of moving warm air around the pump and plumbing and helping to take heat away from the exhaust that is located at ground level. In addition, you no longer experience the loud roar in the cab when the clutch fan kicks in at highway speeds.
Marrying the PUC design with the Dash-CF cab results in better visibility, lower cab step heights, expansive amounts of room in the cab, and ease of maintenance service.
Visibility Means Safety
Increased visibility results in increased safety. The Dash-CF has a large, single- piece wraparound windshield that is free of a center divider. The bottom of the windshield is approximately 10 inches closer to the ground than previous models. This provides the driver with better visibility at the front of the rig. The large wiper blades cover much more of the windshield surface, which will be a welcome addition during inclement weather.
The drop-down door windows allow full viewing of the door-mounted mirrors. Large windows on the side, between the cab and crew cab doors, provide additional visibility and give the cab a more open and bright interior. Windows in the upper and lower portion of the crew cab doors add to meeting this goal.
Inside the Cab
Lowering the cab means step heights are also lower–a welcome feature to members mounting the apparatus with turnout pants and boots on! The distance from the ground to the first step is 20 inches, and there is a comfortable step height of 16 inches between the first and second step. The top step is set back to give a stair-like configuration. A section of the cab door fills the space at the top step, resulting in the cab floor being flat all the way to the door. The firefighter no longer has to sit with his foot dangling in the hole next to the door.
Pierce brought the raised roof transition forward to provide additional head room in the cab.
Moving the front seats more inboard provides additional elbow room for the driver and officer. Occupants are no longer sandwiched between the engine housing and the door. The flat front floor is spacious, making it comfortable to ride in the front. There is a large open space under the center cab position that can be used to mount or store equipment.
Obviously, with the engine moved toward the rear of the cab, the transverse opening that we have become accustomed to in the crew cab is blocked. Rear seating includes two rear-facing seats over the wheel wells and two forward-facing seats against the back wall, much like older canopy cabs. Between the driver and officer's seating positions, there is a large flat area that can accommodate another seat (for a total of seven) or map boxes, MDT terminals, or mounted equipment.
Realistically speaking, I don't think I have ever seen a 10-person cab with ten firefighters in it! If they are there, they certainly aren't as large as I am and they are packed like sardines and unable to move or function! In career departments I am certain that six riding positions will be more than ample. And, in most places, the volunteer fire service is experiencing a decline in the number of responders as well. So, unless it is "meeting night" and everyone wants to take the ride, I think the six or seven cab positions will be plenty.
Since the engine is mounted lower than normal, the engine cover in the rear is considerably lower as well. This allows for a great deal of upper body space and a comfortable ride. It is my opinion that six comfortable riding positions is far more preferable than packing 10 seats into the cab that go generally unfilled. As an added benefit, I think that it will encourage seat belt use as they are more accessible.
On a test ride, I rode in a rear seat with another journalist across from me and we were both quite comfortable with the amount of space and leg room.
End users can use the large flat area of the engine cover in the rear portion of the cab to mount equipment such as hand lights, tools, thermal imaging camera, and helmet brackets or for an EMS compartment.
Pierce has designed the interior of the cab to be primarily metal with stainless steel door panels. The interior door handles are designed like a paddle latch with a hole in it. A gloved hand can easily open the door.
The dashboard on the driver's side is vastly improved. All gauges are directly in front of the steering wheel; one flat panel, to the right of the center dash, contains all of the switches and controls needed. An overhead switch panel is available for additional options. No longer are there gangs of modular switches in several locations up on the doghouse where you had to search for the function you want to perform. The officer's side is wide open for radio or MDT installation.
Long handrails on the A-post make climbing in the front of the cab easy and a smaller hand rail next to the rear doors do the same. Front and side roll protection (air bags) are available.
Ease of Maintenance
Ease of maintenance was another goal in developing the Dash-CF. As I said earlier, the PUC design makes the pump and plumbing readily accessible with the cab tilted.
The batteries on the Dash-CF are in an area under the front of the cab. From the right side, they can easily be accessed for service. By moving the battery boxes off the frame rails, it freed up an area on the left side where all of the engine filters are mounted externally for ease of maintenance. Fuel, oil, and coolant filters are all readily accessible. Having previously worked as a truck mechanic, I can attest to the fact that this will enhance and speed up the maintenance process.
Since there is no radiator or fan at the front of the engine, and the engine is moved back, the drive pulley for the alternator and other accessories is open and accessible. Once again, access to the alternator for testing or replacement can be done while standing on the ground.
The operator can check and fill the engine oil or transmission through a maintenance access compartment inside the left crew cab door while standing on the ground. No more climbing up into the cab to add oil or transmission fluid as in previous models.
A power distribution center is located at the front of the cab behind a drop- down panel near the officer's feet. Operators or mechanics can troubleshoot in this compartment, again, while standing on the ground.
Wiring raceways are located throughout the cab with removable covers. If wires have to be traced or a new wire installed for an accessory, the covers can be removed and the work easily accomplished.
Features of the Demonstrator
The current engine availability on the Dash-CF is the Cummins ISL9, rated at 450 hp and 1,250 ft. lbs. of torque. Big block engines will be available in the future.
The dimensions were an overall height of only 9 feet 9 inches with a 10-inch raised roof, 181-inch wheelbase, and compact 31-foot 6-inch overall length.
The PUC pump panel is located inside the forward left compartment. There were two 2½-inch discharges on the left side of the demonstrator, one on the right, and one in the rear. An LDH discharge was on the right side and a deck gun riser was piped to the top. Preconnects included two speedlays at the front of the body (one 1½-inch and one 2½-inch) and a trash-line discharge recessed in a hose compartment in the front bumper. A Husky foam system was installed for the preconnects. This particular model had a 500-gallon water tank and a 20-gallon foam tank.
A standard complement of ground ladders and pike poles was stored in a compartment with rear access. Full- height and full-depth compartments were located on both sides to hold a vast amount of equipment as well as smaller "coffin" compartments accessible from the top on both sides. The lower rear compartment was open and transverse to the side compartments.
The hosebed was deep and spacious. A Pierce-designed folding ladder was mounted at the rear of the apparatus and made the top area easily accessible.
Fire Research LED scene lighting on the sides and rear eliminated the need for a generator. LED compartment strip lighting was provided in all compartments.
Pierce Manufacturing indicated that it would start taking orders for the Dash-CF at FDIC 2011 in March. The company was prepared to go into full production that month.
I was very pleased that Pierce Manufacturing is listening to the recommendations of the fire service. Enhanced visibility, cab space, lower step heights, and heavy duty construction all add to firefighter safety. I believe that Pierce has done an outstanding job accomplishing these goals.
WILLIAM C. PETERS retired after 28 years with the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, having served the final 17 years of his career as battalion chief/supervisor of apparatus. He served as a voting member of the NFPA 1901 apparatus committee for several years and is the author of Fire Apparatus Purchasing Handbook, the apparatus chapters in The Fire Chief's Handbook, and numerous apparatus-related articles. He is a member of the FDIC executive advisory board.